If you currently produce a comedy show or are considering producing a comedy show, the most important moment is the agreement between you and the venue you are dealing with regards of who is responsible for what. What comes out of this conversation and negotiation will make or break the success rate of your show.
Here are 4 things you need to get the venue to do.
1. Give you a budget When producing a show, the last thing you want to worry about is how and if you can pay your comics. Many venues will offer giving the comic the proceeds collected from ticket sales. (the door) This may seem like a good idea but in reality working for the door will cause more stress and anxiety than any other aspect of running a show. You should be able to book your show knowing that the amount of money you offer the comics will be provided no matter what. If the venue gives you the door, then they have nothing to lose and no reason to promote and push the show. If you get people to come, great for them. If you don’t, then the venue doesn’t take a hit because they never invested anything. By getting a budget, you are making the venue be invested in the show. They will promote, push and get behind the show because they want to make that money back plus some. And if you and the venue are working together to get the word out and put on a great show, it has a much better chance of being successful than you just working on your own. Write up an agreement stating that the venue will give you whatever the agreed upon budget is and when they need to have it to you by. You ideally want that money before the show so you don’t need to chase people around for cash at the end of a long night.
2. Charge a cover Some venues like the idea of putting on a free comedy show. They feel that not charging a cover will make the customers happy and let the customer spend more money on booze and food. And it makes the venue look like they are “giving” something to the customer. But in reality, not charging a cover hurts the product. When an audience member doesn’t pay admission, they aren’t invested in the show. And people don’t care abut something they didn’t pay for. They don’t feel obligated to be quiet and be attentive because they didn’t pay for the show so their respect level for the performers and product is minimal or non existent. When someone pays admission (even as little as $5) they become invested in the show. They paid to see a performance and now want to get their money’s worth. A show that shows worth has worth to the customer. And when asking for a budget from a venue, telling the venue they can make their money back from ticket sales helps in that negotiation. The venue will promote and advertise the show because that is how they make the budget back. Charging a cover makes everyone involved (venue, audience and comedians) respect the show.
3.Have Them Advertise When you present a comedy show to a venue, you are selling them a product. You aren’t asking them for a favor. Just like the liquor salesman sells the venue alcohol, you are selling the venue a product that they will purchase in hopes of drawing in customers. A bar doesn’t buy booze and beer then make the sales people do all the work to get people to drink. So, why should it be on you to do all the work to get people to come to the show. You are a comedian. Not a marketer. Not a promoter. You provide comedy. You sell them that. You provide a professionally run show with performers. They agree to have the show and now it is up to them to sell it. Like they do the beer and liquor. Now, sales people do provide help in the form of point of sale, like table tents, neon lights, posters and other items that let the customer know the product is there. And you can do this as well. Provide flyers (online or physical) and promote on your social media. But you need to tell the venue to advertise this show the same way they do any other event. If they have a website, Facebook page or any online presence, your event needs to be included. if they already run ads in the paper or on radio, tell them to include your show as well. The venue has the experience in getting the word out. if a venue refuses to promote and wants the promotion to be all on you, do not work with that venue. They will not have your back and will make your show so stressful because you will have to run a show and promote a show. Do not be afraid to tell them what to do. You don’t work for them. You sold them a product. Now tell them to let people know about your investment.
4. Leave the Show to You Venue owners tend to be micro managers and control freaks. You need to establish from the start that you make all the decisions pertaining to the show. You book the talent. You pay the comedians. You set up the room and make sure it is conducive to comedy. They must leave the comedy to you. They hired you to provide a service they know nothing about. So why would you want their input on a thing they know nothing about. And the less you tell them, the more valuable you are to them. If you tell them how much each comic makes, how the show should run, who all the comics are, etc then what is stopping them from dropping you and trying to do it on their own and save money? Ask the venue to only deal with you and not the other comedians on the show, And tell the comedians to deal only with you and to not ask the venue questions about the show. You need to be in control and be the liaison. The show will run the way you want it to if you are in charge. You wouldn’t tell them how to run their establishment, so they shouldn’t tell you how to run your show.
If you make all of this clear from the start, your show should have success. If you don’t, you will run into problems the night of the show and it most likely will be too late to fix them. The show will run poorly. You may lose the venue. take charge from the beginning. Have faith in yourself and be professional. Don’t be told what to do. Tell the venue what needs to be done.